Food Trends

The Best Grocery Stores All Have This One Thing in Common, According to a New Survey

A survey of more than 75,000 people ranked grocery stores on customer satisfaction, prices, and more—and most of the best grocery stores had something major in common.

Picking the right grocery store can make or break your meals. The right grocery store trip ends with a satisfied shopper and bags full of fresh, tasty food; the wrong one ends with sub-par food, a frustrating shopping experience, or even some wasted money. It all depends on the grocery store: Some are known for good customer service, while others are loved for their offerings, and still more are valued for their good prices; some are known for poor customer service or too-high prices.

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

Wherever people grocery shop, they certainly have their favorites—and an extensive new survey from Consumer Reports sought to rank them all to determine customers’ most preferred grocery stores. The survey asked more than 75,000 Consumer Reports members about their grocery store preferences, and the final ranking pits 96 chain grocery stores against each other to determine the very best.

Regional grocery stores—Central Market, Wegmans, Heinen’s, Gelson’s Markets, and Market Basket—were ranked most highly for customer satisfaction; the only national grocery chain to earn Consumer Reports’ top overall satisfaction score was Trader Joe’s. (No wonder Trader Joe’s locations are popping up everywhere.) Only five grocery chains received what Consumer Reports calls disappointing overall scores: Walmart, Acme Markets, Shaw’s, Tops, and Key Foods.

The survey used customer rankings in categories such as price, customer service, store brand quality, breadth of goods, produce quality, and more. A high overall score across the categories put stores at the top of the full ranking; a low one put them at the bottom.

One thing most of the best grocery stores had in common? They offered reasonable prices. Survey respondents said their top reason for shopping at a particular store was its low prices, and one of the most common reported reasons for no longer frequenting a certain grocery store was that its prices were too high. Still, some grocery chains with perceived high prices were still ranked favorably, mainly because they offered excellent selections or good shopping experiences. Whole Foods, for example, is notorious for its high prices—it received a mediocre score for overall customer satisfaction because of its prices, though it was ranked favorably in almost every other category.

According to the survey’s findings, people return to grocery stores because they have good prices—but they love them for a variety of reasons. Value the relatively low prices at your favorite grocery store, but know that the other features that make it great (the selection, the friendly employees, the cleanliness of the space) are worth noting, too. Going to the cheapest grocery store may not give you the shopping experience you’d like, especially if the produce isn’t great. It’s all about balance, even with grocery stores.

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